One reported missing as waves hit California

One reported missing as waves hit California

Waves triggered by the massive earthquake in Japan hit Hawaii and California on Friday damaging dozens of boats in California marinas and sweeping away nine people near Crescent City in the far north of the state, officials said, dpa reported.

Eight of those were quickly rescued, but hours after the surge hit one person was still missing. The local sheriff said that 35 boats had been crushed by the tsunami's swell. More than 4,000 people were ordered to evacuate in low-lying areas of the town, which was devastated in 1964 by a tsunami that killed 11 people.

The surge also wreaked havoc in the small harbour of Santa Cruz, where a tidal swell tossed around boats, slamming them into each other on their moorings and sinking at least three vessels.

"These are the biggest surges I have ever seen," said Mark Zevanove, whose family's boat is moored in the harbour.

In British Columbia, Canada filming of the latest installment of the Twilight series, Breaking Dawn, was suspended in Vancouver Island and star Taylor Lautner and the rest of the cast were evacuated.

In Hawaii, tourists were moved to upper floors of their hotels when news of the tsunami broke, sending sirens ringing throughout the Pacific archipelago.

The tsunami hit the Hawaiian island of Maui around 3:30 am (1430 GMT) and crested above 2 metres, while in Waikiki the waves broke over a sea wall but stopped short of structures built close to the waterfront.

Some residents rushed out in the middle of the night to fuel their cars in anticipation of a major emergency, while tourists posed for photos around the warning boards posted in hotel lobbies.

In Oregon and Northern California, fishermen rushed to get their boats out of harbours and into the safer open ocean before the waves hit.

But thousands of onlookers up and down the US Pacific Coast ignored official warnings to evacuate beaches, instead looking for a possible tsunami, while groups of foolhardy surfers actually took to the water in expectation of riding huge waves.

The National Weather Service had issued tsunami warnings for California, Oregon and Hawaii, following an 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan, alerting residents near the beach or in low-lying coastal areas to move to higher ground and away from all harbours and river mouths.

"Tsunami warnings mean that a tsunami with significant widespread inundation is imminent or expected. ... Widespread dangerous coastal flooding accompanied by powerful currents is possible and may continue for several hours after the initial wave arrival," NOAA said.

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